How we find our perfect (for us) off grid park-ups
We don't often go by recommendations from others for park-ups, unless it is from someone who knows us well! One mans perfect parking spot is another mans idea of a nightmare. When we were in Scotland, we asked in a Facebook group for recommendations for parking near Loch Ness. We got an overwhelming number of suggestions to park up in a pub car park, right next to the Loch. So many people loved the place. It sounded amazing. We went and checked it out and it was not our idea of bliss. The place was heaving with cars, vans, kids running round, people generally having a nice time. The truth is we love solitude when we are on the road, when the only other person you are likely to see for hours is a farmer tending his sheep. If company is what you crave on the road, this article may not be for you. We travel for leisure and live for the countryside, so stealth is not a concern for us. If you were to ask us where to park in a town or city, we would be as lost as you.
google is your friend
We have found ourselves awaking to some spectacular views and a question we are often asked is "how do you find these locations?". Scott is really the mastermind behind this. I am merely the copilot who enjoys going along for the ride. I would say half our park-ups are researched and half are happened upon. Scott has a love for maps and will spend many a happy morning, nursing a cup of coffee whilst exploring the countryside; with the aid of google maps and most importantly street view. Street view is amazing, follow the roads and you can see how busy they are likely to be, what the landscape looks like, what areas of flat hardened ground is next to the roads and how big the laybys are. Scott will always look at the minor roads. Single track roads in rural locations, we love a mountain road; national parks often have a lot to offer for the wild camper, head to those big areas of green on the map. We are never put off by a dead end road, these often reveal the best treasures, with the added benefit that with no through road, there is likely to be very little traffic. So when you have an idea of an area you would like to visit, look for those little hairline sized roads on the map, zoom in and set it street view; you will at the very least enjoy the virtual ride, but you might just find yourself a gem of a park-up.
nothing quite like the freedom of just going with the flow and seeing what you discover.
Whilst planning can feel reassuring, there is nothing quite like the freedom of just going with the flow and seeing what you discover. Scott calls it his "spidey senses", he gets a gut instinct about a road and follows that intuition. First things first, leave those main roads, take the side roads into the minor roads, look for the roads with no markings. Again if you see a dead end sign, don't let that put you off, go and find out where that road leads to, you are exploring and that is what it is all about! When you spot a cattle grid in the distance, you are usually onto a winner! We usually look for parking spaces that are off the road; areas of hardened ground. If it is a layby, it needs to be a good deep layby. Enough to still be a passing place, even though you are parked there. We prefer spaces that will only allow for one vehicle to park-up; it's not that we are unfriendly, we just like the peace and solitude of our own company. We rarely will park in a car park for this reason and helps us avoid the issue of other hobbyists who may frequent rural car parks after dark. When you find a spot, how do you know if it is OK to park up there? If there are no signs telling you not to, then go with your gut, what do your instincts tell you? If you feel uncomfortable for any reason - move on, you will never sleep well if your gut instinct is giving you cause for concern. This method works for us 9 times out of 10, the times it doesn't happen is usually because we get hangry, we just need to stop and eat, we want to be settled after dinner and not still searching for that perfect park-up. The need for food is the one thing, which will allow me to compromise my morning view. We have never had a knock on the door and been asked to move on.
We chose not to respray our van, as we didn't want to have to be precious about the paintwork. The nature of these minor roads is you have to spend a lot of time tucked into hedgerows, letting oncoming vehicles pass and you will need to be confident at reversing, some single lane tracks don't even have a turning area. Our method of wild camping is probably better suited to the van owner than to larger motor-homes.
So get on your Google maps and start exploring, then head out onto the open road. Who knows what you might discover? You will have such a great sense of achievement in knowing that your perfect morning view, was one you discovered yourself. Let us know what you find.